Tough Conversations About Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Four community leagues — Wîhkwêntôwin, Strathcona, Alberta Avenue and The Meadows — are part of a year-long anti-racism project

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Real change comes from more than just a hashtag on TikTok or a flag-raising ceremony at City Hall. Real change starts on a grassroots level, between neighbours.

That’s the thinking behind the Anti-Racism Project, which launched earlier this year.

The project, which was awarded $178,000 from the City’s Anti-Racism Community Safety Fund, seeks to foster dialogue on those tough-yet-constructive conversations about race, inclusion and equity and do it between neighbours within the safety of a community league setting.

The project is a collaboration between the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (ECFL), four participating community leagues — Wîhkwêntôwin, Strathcona, Alberta Avenue and The Meadows — and three local organizations that serve and advocate for BIPOC residents.

Each of the three organizations — Ribbon Rouge, Bent Arrow and Sisters Dialogue —will host events across the community leagues with each organization presenting its own workshop. Some of the programming will feature different ways of learning and dialoguing including arts-based workshops, seminars on equity in sport and game, history lessons surrounding Treaty 6 and inclusion workshops from Sisters Dialogue — an organization that advocates for culturally and physically safe spaces for Muslim women in Edmonton.

Chalaundrai Grant, the project lead, said the tough work of bringing community together to talk and better understand each other is increasingly important as instances of racism, Islamophobia and polarization rise across the globe.

“I think it’s a particularly important time for this work,” Grant said. “After the pandemic, we lost of some our community. We lost some of our sense of safety and when people face difficulty, they may look at each other a bit more leerily and start to blame people for things that are happening in our lives. Racism can rise in those times.”

In fact, it was rising racism that led to the project’s inception in the first place. The Anti-Racism Project is a spiritual successor to the Safewalk pilot project, which began in 2021-2022.

“In response to the attacks on Muslim women two years ago, we found some funding to do work with the Muslim community on ways to provide safe spaces in community,” said Laura Cunningham-Shpeley, the executive director with the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues. “That [experience] led us to realizing there was work that continued to be needed in connecting organizations with community leagues in a more meaningful way.”

With 163 community leagues in the City, just four are taking part in this year-long project. Cunningham-Shpeley said the participating leagues were chosen, in part, because of their work on, and interest in, diversity, equity and inclusion thus far.

She added that the EFCL hopes that if this project is successful, the EFCL and its partners might be able to expand the work into more communities in the future.

“This is sort of the first attempt to build this structure,” she said. “[We’re] hoping to bring it elsewhere in the city.”